Sir Terry Frost

Lament for Ignacio Sanches Mejias


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Sir Terry Frost 1915–2003
Original title
Ilanto Par Ignacio Sanchez Mejios
Etching on paper
Image: 557 × 378 mm
Lent by the American Fund for the Tate Gallery, courtesy of David and Renée McKee 2003
On long term loan


Frost was a major figure in the second generation of St Ives artists. Although he is primarily known as an abstract painter, printmaking was a major part of his artistic output throughout his career. The prints in the series Eleven Poems by Federico Garcia Lorca were produced to accompany a suite of poems by Spanish poet and dramatist Federico García Lorca (1898-1936) printed in the original Spanish and in English translation. Work on Frost’s colour intaglio prints in this series was overseen first by painter and graphic designer Gordon House and then by printmaker Hugh Stoneman. The poems and prints were published by Austin/Desmond Contemporary Books, London in 1989 in a solander box designed by the artist. In the box each print rests inside a paper folder on which the respective poem is printed. In addition Frost decorated the exterior of the box and designed a title page for the portfolio. The suite was produced in an edition of seventy-five plus fifteen artist’s copies; Tate’s copy is the fourth of ten artist’s proofs.

Widely regarded as one of Spain’s greatest writers, Lorca was killed by pro-Franco forces in the early days of the Spanish Civil War. Along with his literary achievements his early death sealed his posthumous reputation as a political martyr. Frost began reading Lorca’s poetry in depth in the 1970s and was inspired by the poet’s visual imagery, particularly his emotive descriptions of colour. The artist’s first print made in response to a Lorca poem was a 1974 screenprint entitled Variations. In the late 1980s Frost obtained copyright to English translations of several of Lorca’s poems and began work on the images in this portfolio. Recalling this period of his life, Frost proclaimed his admiration for the poet, saying, ‘Lorca is so simple, and so direct, and so full of colour and ideas. I was so much in love with the poetry at that time’ (quoted in Terry Frost: Six Decades, p.69).

Lament for Ignacio Sanchez Mejias is based on a four-part elegy to a young bullfighter and friend of Lorca’s who was fatally gored in the Manzanares arena in Madrid on 11 August 1934. In Frost’s print, the artist’s characteristic abstracted forms of solid colour suggest an illustration of the poem’s subject. A large black semi-circular wedge suggestive of a bull’s horn intrudes into the image from the left side. At its point is a splattering of bright red denoting the spilled blood of the matador. Above and to the right is a bright yellow circle, a simplified image of the blazing sun. An off-white arc is embossed below the circle, shadowing or cradling the yellow form. The slightly glossy texture of the arc is dampened where it overlaid with smudges of red. Linda Saunders has commented on how the simplicity of the composition echoes the starkness of the poem. She has written, ‘Frost takes the primary force of his image from the bold colour of three of Lorca’s lines: “Oh, white wall of Spain! / Oh, black bull of sorrow! / Oh, hard blood of Ignacio!”’ (Saunders, ‘Frost and the Duende’, Terry Frost, p.222).

Further reading:
David Lewis, David Archer, Ronnie Duncan, Adrian Heath and Linda Saunders, Terry Frost, Aldershot, Hants, 2000, reproduced p.218 in colour.
Mel Gooding and Isabel Carlisle, Terry Frost: Six Decades, exhibition catalogue, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2000.
Chris Stephens, St Ives Artists: Terry Frost, London, 2000, reproduced no.54 in colour.

Rachel Taylor
July 2004

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